MEDIA HEADLINER: Daily Mail’s top adman looks to reinvigorate Sunday paper - Mike Ironside is relishing his new role at the Mail on Sunday, Anna Griffiths says

Mike Ironside is the cat who’s got the cream. As one old mucker says: ’He’s intolerable at the moment.’ Such is his glee at getting the managing director’s job at the Mail on Sunday - just days after returning from a management development course at Harvard.

Mike Ironside is the cat who’s got the cream. As one old mucker

says: ’He’s intolerable at the moment.’ Such is his glee at getting the

managing director’s job at the Mail on Sunday - just days after

returning from a management development course at Harvard.

According to one industry source, he’s ’being groomed for stardom within

Associated Newspapers’. Ironside, who has been ad director on the Daily

Mail for four years, admits he was keen to progress up the rungs of the

Associated ladder. ’There’s no doubt that my hopes and ambitions were

that I would go on to other things.’

As to the pearls of wisdom he gleaned at Harvard, Ironside gives a

typically roguish response: ’I learned how to do my own laundry, and my

wife now knows how to use the lawnmower!’ On a more serious note, he

adds: ’You get a much broader feel for the marketplace than talking to

people in this industry. I learned a huge amount about the development

of IT in the US, its use as a potential weapon for newspapers and how we

adapt ourselves to that.’

Ironside leaves the Daily Mail ’in top order’ to go on to a Sunday title

which is successful, but could do much better. The Daily Mail’s

circulation has risen onwards and upwards, but the Mail on Sunday hasn’t

matched its full potential in a market which is contracting at a greater

rate than the daily equivalent.

Referring to his new challenge, Ironside says: ’People haven’t picked up

the baton of moving the Mail on Sunday on as quickly as it needed to be.

It needs a fresh look from people editorially and commercially to make

it succeed.’

Never without an opinion, Ironside already knows what he wants to


’I will sit down and review the whole package, to see what’s doing what

to whom. It’s a total piece of communication - it’s a bit like Microsoft

Office, but not all the bits are used by all the family. Maybe there’s

more we can do.’ Once it’s in the shape Ironside is happy with, he

promises that ’advertising will play a role in communicating that


It is probably just as well the management at Associated saw fit to

promote Ironside, as industry insiders say he was getting restless after

doing the same job for a number of years. His skill at negotiating a

tough ad rate is legendary.

Tim McCloskey, the deputy managing director at BMP Optimum, says: ’It

will be very hard to replace Mike - he’s in a league of his own. He’s

managed very successfully and consistently to raise the price of the

Daily Mail’s advertising, while making it palatable for a lot of people.

Any fool can sell it short, but you have to be a good operator to

consistently push prices.’ Tim Kirkman, the press director at Carat,

describes Ironside as ’cool, calm and calculating. He’s excellent at

networking and politics.’

Part of Ironside’s ability to loosen a client’s grip on its

purse-strings comes from his own stint in the agency business.

In 1974, he kicked off his career as a media trainee at FCB before

working his way up the media hierarchy - passing through the doors of

five agencies.

Ten years ago, he landed the managing director’s job at the media

start-up, Time and Space, but left after 16 months to become client

advertising manager of the Daily Mail.

Described by Jim Marshall, the chief executive of MediaVest, as looking

like Jack Straw, and ribbed by Zenith’s chief executive, Graham Duff,

for having ’an Oasis haircut’, Ironside is sickeningly popular - with

no-one, even off the record, willing to speak ill of him. As for any

skeletons in the closet, there was a resounding wall of silence from his

media chums.

But as Guy Zitter, the managing director of the Daily Mail, points out:

’Obviously there are stories in serious numbers, but because there’s a

group of people who all have stories on each other, there’s a general

impenetrable curtain of silence.’

Ironside, 45, is still trying to cling to his youth, as Zitter kindly

points out: ’He’s having a mid-life crisis, but he’s already old. This

is manifested by him driving around on a Harley-Davidson very


However, Ironside will now have to knuckle down to some serious work,

Zitter says. ’It’s not as much fun as the ad director’s job, which is a

licence to have more fun than any other human being.’ But working on a

weekly means he can still fit in those essential frequent freebie trips

he’s so fond of.


1974: FCB, media trainee

1978: Ted Bates, senior media manager

1979: Zetland Advertising, media manager

1980: TBWA, media manager

1984: Chetwynd Haddons, media director

1988: Time and Space, managing director

1989: Daily Mail, client advertising manager, becoming ad sales

      controller in 1992

1994: Daily Mail, ad director

1999: Mail on Sunday, managing director


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